Andy McSmith's Diary: Boris goes to war over Iraq again - it’s all Blair’s fault


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Indy Politics

Since the Iraq War ceased to be a vote winner, the politicians who supported it generally try to avoid the subject. Boris Johnson, however, was put on the spot by a caller to his LBC phone-in, who asked whether Tony Blair will ever be charged with war crimes.

Iraq was Blair’s worst mistake, but to his credit he did set a precedent by being the first Prime Minister to seek Parliament’s approval before going to war. If the invasion was a crime, 396 MPs were accessories, including the then MP for Henley, Boris Johnson.

The legal case for war rested on allegations that Iraq had a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Johnson was too sharp to be fooled by that. “The more I listened to the debate back in 2003, I started to think it probably was a load of nonsense,” he told LBC’s listeners.

Nonetheless, he voted to send British troops to war on a pretext which he suspected was a “load of nonsense”, while knowing – as so many of those who are embarrassed about the position they took know – that in some obscure way it’s Tony Blair’s fault.

“I would like to understand more deeply on what basis a Prime Minister who, at that time, commanded so much trust was able to persuade Parliament and the country and me to go for war in Iraq,” he said, in seeming bewilderment. At least he had the grace to add: “I feel guilty because I voted for the wretched thing.”

Boo who?

The appointment of a new head of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) made me suddenly wish that fine old broadcaster Ray Gosling were still alive. I would have liked to ring him up with the news that the new boss is called Marcial Boo. Thus I would prove (warning: this contains a bad pun) that I could say “Boo to a goose”.

A Su-sex scandal

Not a sex scandal, exactly, but very embarrassing all the same: Liberal Democrats in Lewes have put out a leaflet in support of their MP, Norman Baker, who, they say, has been “delivering for East Susex”.

Old soldiers never fade away

David Winnick, the 80-year-old MP for Walsall North, has been reselected to do another five-years: but that won’t make him the oldest MP in the next Parliament, nor the second oldest. He is younger than his fellow Labour MPs Sir Gerald Kaufman and Dennis Skinner, who are also fighting on.

Putting Ukip right on Savile

Ukip’s choice of Roger Helmer as its candidate in the Newark by-election shows that the party will stand by some of those in its ranks who stir up media controversy, while ridding itself of outright racists and other hard cases.

Bradley Monk, a young Ukip candidate, showed very bad taste when he turned up at a Halloween party in a Jimmy Savile mask and allowed his picture to go on social media.

But at a Ukip meeting  last week, the party’s  former press spokesman, Gawain Towler, defended Mr Monk because it was Halloween and Jimmy Savile was “a monster,  a monster created by  the media”.

Actually, Savile was not “a monster created by the media”. He was a nasty sexual predator. A stronger ground on which to defend Mr Monks is that he was only 19 years old.